By: Nzube Nlebedim
In Nigeria, the successful or soon-to-be successful writer must run away from see finish. It kills your career faster than cancer eating into an amoeba. Yes, see finish, in the barest minimum. According to the Dictionary of the Nigerian People (2022), see finish is to be “seen finished,” to be seen more than necessary, and therefore to be overseen. In other words, a person suffering from see finish is close to the most predictable thing that ever happened on earth, like the ground getting wet when rain falls. That is what see finish is. Nigerians are wont to seeing people finish. Yes, yes, humans. But Nigerians are worse at it. Oh, they can see a person to the last hair on their body. This happens when you give just any person or set of people your time.
The successful or soon-to-be successful writer must then be very aware to reply messages late. Yes, the successful Nigerian writer must learn to take African time very seriously. Stroll in when least expected. You have not see the handbook of successful Nigerian writers yet? Oh yes, you have. Of course. Now where did it say they should respond messages immediately they get it? Nowhere. Be it mails, SMS, tweets, etc, responding late is the mark of true importance. Respond too early and you lose your importance. Trust me. See finish, phase one initiated. You do not want that.
When you get to respond to these messages — if you have to respond — which should be about two days after you receive it, ensure you do not sound excited. Excitement? Do you want to lose your place in the oracle of success? I doubt. Read, read, read and edit away every iota of excitement from those messages excited you just typed. Do you want to be seen finish? I hope not.
This is ultra important for the successful Nigerian artiste. Understand that no one takes you seriously if you choose to facilitate every writing workshop or groom every mentee. You do not attend to every event, however available you would be. People must see you as who you are, an oracle, a masquerade that only comes out once a year. None other time. You learn the skill of disappearing, selectively. And so you must learn to say “Unfortunately, I will be declining this offer.” Do not forget to add “…at this time.” It simply means that you, successful Nigerian writer, although largely incapable of designing to attend such and such events, will be open to attending others if the stakes are raised a little much higher. You must learn pride. What is the successful Nigerian writer without some pride?
What is a successful Nigerian writer without dreads, dada? What do you think you are if you have not begun to leave your hair to grow fully, lice-occupying, damp, smelly, etc? You do not know what you want if you still go around without dreads! Rock your dada. That is what qualifies you into the cult of the successful Nigerian writer. Like, how dare you come to a literary event bald? Are the demons of misfortune controlling you?
Dear successful Nigerian writer, have you heard of the Power of the Stutter? You must take a cue from Olusegun Obasanjo, or Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, or the many other skilled stutterers we have. Research has shown that stuttering gives a person an air of uniqueness. And no, I am not referring to senseless, uncoordinated stuttering. Not those ones. Not kalolo. I refer to the organised one, the intellectual one, the scholarly stuttering. No one would take you seriously if you have not ahhed and uhmed about fifteen (take heed to the number) times. Do not go beyond 15 or else you would be viewed as a simpleton. Be careful, also, to not go above twenty or else you might just be seen as having a speech defect. Number is key. We understand you have forgotten nothing. Just uhm and ahh enough times to be seen as important.
Lastly, dear successful or soon-to-become successful Nigerian writer, be patriotic. Show, even if you cannot speak your own mother’s language, that you uphold the tenets of African culture. Be a torch bearer of African Pride (you are African, and you are Proud, aren’t you?) and sprinkle every discussion, every Instagram post, every Tweet and everything else, with words that show you support your black brothers. You must make it a point of duty to condemn black on black racism in America even though you care no hoot what extent of tribalism is going on in your own state. It does not matter. What matters is not what is unseen but what is seen. Preach anti-racism everywhere you go, adopt only your African names and do not forget to add diacritics to each letter, even consonants. Yes, it shows the extent of your loyalty to the Tribe.
Also, do not forget to end every email with “daalu” or “ese.” It is too vile to end your emails with “yours faithfully.” It sounds too English, and people will see you as that. Remember, it is a problem of what people see! So, end your emails with words in your local language, even if you spent the better part of a day Googling what they actually meant.
I have learned, by experience, being a successful writer in Nigeria myself, that posing as a powerful witch or ogbanje does the trick. It creates a wall around you that no one will be able to break. Just do not be caught with visible breasts, or attending a church service. Don’t.
I would not leave without dropping this final advice to you, my dear successful and soon-to-become successful Nigerian writer. This one is simple, and I believe quite straightforward – Remember that writers are sad people. They are perennially unhappy, not with their low income, bad book sales and endless grief-striking. So, do not ever paint a picture of happiness in public. Your face must adopt a certain disposition, never smiling and not exactly crying, somewhere just in between. Look the part. Nigeria is hard. Look the part! You are representing the tribe, and people will surely rever you when they have not seen you smile. Or tell me, have you seen Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka smiling? I doubt you have. If you have, you are definitely mistaken!
Flood your social media timelines with photos of burning candles and sad puppies or a bloodied Nigerian flag. The flag, in participating, has proven to be quite effective, I must say.